Chapter 17 – A Chapter Ends and a New One Begins
The first three days of my incarceration I spend cooped up in my bedroom, refusing to come out, to see anyone, or even to eat. I was hungry, but I lack an appetite and refused to accept anyone's pity. I especially didn't want to see Mother's face, nor had she even made the effort to come to check on me.
I spent my time out on my balcony, a notebook open before me on the tea table, twirling a pen between my fingers. My mind was racing with words that I could write, but they all moved much too fast for me to write them before another thought was in my head. I wanted to write a note to my friends, to Kyle, to let them know the situation, considering I had missed out on three days worth of events without warning and without reason. They had no idea what was going on. But what was the use? Mother would never pass on the message.
Meanwhile, I was sure Cal was strutting, proud of his achievement; parading around a girl he didn't love; like a priceless wooden trophy, only to anger me; and, to make it worse, it was working. I couldn't bear to think of him with her, kissing her, her hands all over him as though he was a golden statue, while I was here locked away from the world, unable to see the one I loved. I hated her, and I hated him more for doing this to me. Why had he done it in the first place? Why was my engagement so important to him that he had to make it his duty to take it all away from me; for what purpose? It couldn't possibly be that he wanted me for himself…we weren't even speaking anymore. That man confused me, and I was stupid enough to fall for it…me, of all people, who was never gullible.
I heard a knock on my door, and looked back to see Mrs Herbert coming in with a tray of breakfast. She came out to me, closed and moved my notebook and lay the tray down. I could smell the eggs tempting my taste buds, but I refused to indulge.
"I suppose everyone else has lost hope in getting me to eat."
"Lilly, you must put something in that stomach of yours. You haven't eaten for three days!"
"I'm not hungry."
"I'm not going to eat it!"
"Yes, you are."
After a moment of her watching me sternly with her hands on her hips, I finally picked up a cracker and ate it, but didn't eat anything more.
"Are you happy?"
"No I am not. I didn't prepare this for you to have you waste it, and I am not leaving this spot until I see that plate whipped clean, do you understand me?" I didn't want to, but I couldn't bear having her stand there pestering me to eat, and my stomach was beginning to get impatient with me, so I began to eat. Mrs Herbert sat down in another seat and sighed, "You know, this was bound to happen Lilly. You know how your mother is and I warned you. Now don't start pointing fingers," she said quickly noticing my defensive look, "I do not agree with your mother; I think he is a wonderful young man. But, she did tell you the consequences if you lied, and you did, she found out and now you've landed yourself in the spot you're in."
"Is she really going to send me to Oxford? Honestly, where is she going to get the money to send me, unless Aunty Phyllis pays for it?"
"Well, I doubt she will send you off. She isn't quite prepared to be lonely yet."
"I'm not sure she'll notice the difference with me not here."
"Don't say that! Your mother loves you very much, whether you believe it or not. It breaks her heart to see you like this. I see her distress when you aren't looking, and she bottles it up so tightly; that is where the two of your really differ."
"The only things she and I have in common are our similar looks and our last name. Otherwise, she and I are two very different individuals."
"My dear, you'd be surprised. There are many things you don't know about your mother. She is trying to ensure you take the proper route," she said, laying a hand gently upon my shoulder. The statement took me by surprise that my mother could possibly have had a secret past, but I chose not to push the matter; what mattered most was who she had become.
I eventually finished eating and Mrs Herbert left me to return to twirling the pen between my fingers. Later on in the day I heard some commotion at the front gate and went to the edge of my balcony to see what it was. My face lit up when I saw that it was Kyle, arguing with a steward about why he wasn't permitted on the premises, until he finally pushed passed him and strode up the driveway. I yelled down to him in excitement and he returned a smile and a salute.
I ran out of my room for the first time in days to greet him at the door but Mother had reached there first.
"Good day Mrs DeWitt Bukator," he said pleasantly, but my mother didn't reply the same.
"I do believe the steward informed you that you were not permitted on the premises Mr Carpenter. There must be a reason for that, which must also be the reason I am not returning the false greeting you just gave me."
"I'm sorry? My greeting was not false Ma'am, and I am not sure what I have done to offend you. I came because I have not seen or heard from your daughter in days; I was worried about her," Kyle, in utter confusion, glanced at me standing a few metres behind Mother.
"I'm sure you have. Perhaps this will clue you in to the reason you haven't seen her or heard from her, and will shed some light on my reason for disallowing you at this house," Mother replied, pushing the ring in his face. He kept silent, looking at me with hidden anguish, but kept his composure well.
"Yes, you do don't you. You, like her, have deliberately kept this unlawful engagement quiet, knowing that I would disapprove. Then you have the audacity to come into my house and disrespect me by laying your filthy hands on my daughter. At least Mr Hockley was honest enough to bring the truth forward."
"Yes, Caledon Hockley; an honest, respectful man; someone you could never be."
"Of course not, Mother, he's already a better man." I said from behind her. She gave me a devilish warning glare, which clearly advised me that it was in my best interest not to speak.
"Mrs DeWitt Bukator, I am sorry to have lied, but I would not have done it had not been Lilly's wish. I'd do anything for her. She has been there for me when others weren't. I love her very much, and believe me, I would do nothing to harm her or disrespect her."
"Don't attempt now to shower me with apologies; you don't regret it at all. You know nothing of love! Neither of you do! Nor are you even worthy enough to be with her. She began to turn rotten the moment you stepped into her life! Influencing her, giving her a bad reputation, degrading her, dishonouring her and her family!"
"Not once have I ever done anything to dishonour her, nor will I ever influence her into any such thing! I have been brought up a man of God, and I'd do nothing but treat her as a gift!"
"A man of God!" Mother repeated, dying with a sarcastic laugh, ridiculing Kyle's claim to his Christianity. "Your kind mock God with such false claims; why must you good for nothing folk always try to bite off more than you can chew? What makes you think that you can give to my daughter what she needs when you can hardly take care of yourself, with your half rated home, clothing, and upbringing."
"Pardon me, Madam, but how dare you insinuate that my upbringing is half rated! I may not be the wealthiest man in the world, but insinuating that my upbringing is any less worthy than yours, would be stooping to the same level you have just judged me for. My mother has devoted her life to ensuring that her only child had the best moral and religious upbringing she could, so that I could be the best man I could be in the future."
"I do not care what future your mother intended for you. Clearly she has failed, and you certainly have no future with my daughter! I have put up with this nonsense for much too long and all I have gotten in return is disrespect, and an unrespectable daughter influenced by an unrespectable boy."
"My goodness, Lilly, is she always like this?" I didn't reply, but he knew what my answer would be. Mother couldn't believe her ears and she turned to look at me and back at him. This was the most disrespectful Kyle had ever been to anybody that I could remember, which could only possibly occur if he had been truly offended.
"Take your ring and leave these premises immediately! You are unwelcome here, and if I find you roaming around here again, or even so much as making eye contact with my daughter ever again, I will have you arrested, mark my words!" said Mother in fury.
"You can't do that!" I yelled at her, shoving her shoulder.
"I can and I will! And if I find out you are in any contact with him at all, expect your punishment to be worsened. You are under my control now. I have been much to lenient with you, and now you and this foolish boy will have to face the consequences."
"This isn't fair!"
"Of course it isn't fair! You can't expect to be treated fairly if you continuously defy me and betray my trust!"
"Fine! If that is what you want, if this is the way it is going to be, then I am leaving. If you can't accept me now, then I suppose you never will," said Kyle, fed up of the nonsense, and unable to control his anger much longer, he turned and began walking toward the gate.
"No, Kyle!" I exclaimed, running behind him. "You can't just leave without putting up a fight. You can't just leave me!"
"Your mother doesn't want me here."
"Who cares what my mother wants! What about fighting for what is right? For love?"
"She has just insulted both me and my mother, Lilly. If I am to deal with that for the rest of our existence then I want no part," he proclaimed, pulling his arm from my grip and continuing toward the gate. I was left there, feeling as though he'd just abandoned me, left me to the wolves.
"So that's it! You're just leaving, forgetting everything we've stood for!"
"Yes!" he shouted back in anger. I felt the colour drain from my face, as my heart crumbled under the feeling of betrayal. I lunged after him just as he arrived at the gate, drew him around to face me.
"You're putting aside ten years of friendship, ten years of loyalty, over a stupid woman?"
"Yes!" he stressed, not attempting to fight me off.
"I thought you loved me! Where has all that gone, hmm? Or has everyone been right about you, that you've just been a fake?" He didn't reply to me, avoiding eye contact; he didn't even appear remotely remorseful for hurting me this way. In utter disbelief and rage, I struck him for the first time, something I thought I'd never do. "Is that it? Then go!" I yelled, striking him again, beginning to get increasingly violent, until he began to retaliate.
"Don't hit me!" He exclaimed, gripping my arm tightly, but never raising a hand to me.
"Don't tell me what to do, you coward! You're the one running at the first test of our strength! What else am I supposed to think of you, when you deny you ever loved me!"
"I'm the coward? You are the one who insisted we keep this a secret from the world! I did all of this for you, because you feared what everyone would think, and you're angry with me? Honestly, if there is anyone who should be angry, it is me! All the while, while I was nothing but completely loyal to you, you were off wondering whether your loyalty lay with me or with that bastard Hockley!"
"How dare you! I never once questioned my loyalty to you!"
"Don't try denying it Lilly; I could see it for myself. Of course, you'd hide it when you're falling for the one man who has done nothing but try to tear us apart, and look; now he has! I know that you have kissed him several times, yet somehow, I never bothered to confront you about it, because I chose to trust you to make the right choice. You're the one who hides so much behind this head strong image so as not to appear vulnerable, that you forget who you really are, and place the blame on everyone without for a second looking at yourself. But yet, you have the nerve to call me a coward!"
"Is that what you think of me then? Is that honestly what you think of me?"
"Yes, it is, Lilly."
"Then you're a jerk like the rest of them!" I said, pushing him through the gate, shutting him out and walking back toward my house.
"That is exactly what I'm talking about! You haven't even apologized to me about Hockley; instead you accuse me of not loving you and call me a jerk."
I replied to him by giving him a rude hand gesture, and he shook his head in disbelief and walked away, kicking at the gravel on the roadside. Mother had remained at the door as we disputed, and stepped aside to let me re-enter.
"I told you, as everyone else did too, that that boy was rotten," she said unsympathetically as I passed her.
"I hope you're satisfied!" I replied without a glance, continuing my stride to my bedroom.
"This was bound to happen, Lilly, and you should be thankful that I decided to end it before it could get too far."
"Will you shut up for once in your life! You got what you wanted! You can go celebrate your triumph with Hockley, mock my stupidity, I don't care! Now, for God's sake, leave me alone!"
My pleading was sincere, obvious from the tears that were streaming down my cheeks and my breathlessness. I felt as though my heart had sunk into my stomach, and the air was suffocating me, and my feet were dragging as I tried to keep upright as I made my way with increasing difficulty to the sanctuary of my bedroom. Mother left me as I asked, but did so reluctantly; she felt no remorse at all…but I suppose she shouldn't when this was exactly what she wanted. Once I was alone I cried myself to sleep and didn't wake until the following morning; I'd never slept so long and dreamlessly.
The next few weeks I spent in solitude, without a single visitor, avoiding any contact with Mother, and writing letters to Rose that would never leave my room. I had no address to send the letters to, so instead I'd spend time each afternoon that it didn't rain in the garden at Rose's memorial, speaking to the marble as though it was her. Sometimes I thought I was going crazy speaking to stone, but I found consolation of some sort from the idea that my big sister was hearing and feeling my pain. I wished everyday she was still around, being my best friend that she'd always been until recently, and now I had lost Kyle, my next closest confident.
A couple of days after Kyle and I stopped talking, Mrs Hockley came to have tea with Mother, during which they discussed Kyle's recent knack for destruction. Apparently, after our ordeal, he took a trip to the Hockley Manor where he and Caledon got into a brawl over what happened. Mrs Hockley, in disgust, described that Caledon had to get stitches and that some of his belonging had be smashed. Eleanor had received a mouthful from him as well when she confronted him. Kyle had to be escorted by police off the property and had been charged, and it was possible he'd have a short sentence to serve.
Meanwhile, Mother had begun her scavenge for young, rich, intelligent and well brought up men who could possibly be interested in courting me. I really had very little choice in the matter at all; it was either I give her options a chance or I'd be sent to Oxford for my aunt, who was much more insistent than Mother, to find me a suitable husband. I honestly didn't know if I could fall in love again, and I was stubborn when it came to losing a battle.
August and September rolled by with very little communication with the outside world at all, and Mother had taken me out of the choir so that I wouldn't see Kyle at all. My friends would come over to see me every so often. They noted over time that I had lost quite a bit of weight, I was looking more and more drained and depressed and the circles beneath my eyes seemed to be getting darker week by week. They'd bring treats for me that would brighten my day and we'd indulge ourselves in the latest gossip. They kept me up to date with Cal and Eleanor's affair; though I claimed that I didn't care to know, it was obvious that I got agitated they were lasting so long. They spoke of Kyle, though they knew he was a touchy subject. It appeared that he missed me and was having a hard time coping with not seeing me and regretted not fighting harder for me.
My 17th birthday, October 6th, finally arrived without a party as I had hoped for, but it fortunately did come more than one pleasant surprise. I was greeted that morning at breakfast with a letter, which Mother handed me, addressed to me from my fifth grade teacher, who had moved to New York some years back after marrying. It came as quite a surprise that she'd write to me as she had never done so before, but when I opened it I realized that it wasn't my teacher at all, but Rose! I decided not to read it until I was alone in my room, away from my mother's prying eyes.
My Dearest Lilly,
I know it has been such a long time since we last spoke, and I am sure you must have been worried stiff. This was the first letter I could comfortably send, and I am hoping greatly that it arrives in time for your birthday, which I regret missing incredibly, but hope it turns out wonderful.
I'll have you reassured that I have begun getting back on my feet, and live in Manhattan, as you may have guessed, with Mrs Carrey, who has been ever so kind to give me a roof to live under until I can afford my own home. I currently have two jobs, working as a waitress at a local upper class restaurant, and getting small acting roles in moving picture shows, which has proven very exciting, though quite exhausting. I don't get paid as much as I'd like, but I suppose you must start somewhere. Thankfully, White Star Line compensated me for lost possessions; money which I have stored in the bank as savings that I intend to spend buying a house out west.
Life without Cal breathing down back and watching my every move is much more relaxing, and I hope that you are holding up well and taking care of Mother; she must be very distressed, which is something I regret, though it had to be done. I heard about your trip to New York some months back. I admit that it probably wasn't smart, and I don't know why you did it, but I wish I had seen you. It would have been nice to have seen you again, just the two of us, the way it used to be, but I suppose letters will have to do. I hope that we will meet again in the near future; I miss you so much!
How are the Carpenters, especially Kyle? You are my favourite couple; a young love I admire, and hope to see blossom in the years to come, unless of course Mother intervenes, if she hasn't already. I hope Mrs Carpenter is coping well with her husband's death; at least she still has her son.
I almost feel dirty for asking this, but how are the Hockleys? I have heard rumours of Cal being in another relationship already…how typical. I do hope you and Jeremy aren't feuding any longer, though knowing both of you, there will never be peace between the two of you. I am quite sure that the family knows the story of Jack and me; it is very surprising to me that they have stuck around for so long in the DeWitt Bukator household, so I am guessing Mother has been making ends meet.
I do hope that you can forgive me for not writing until now, and I promise that I will write much more often from now on. I want to remind you that if you ever need anything at all, or need someone to confide in, I am always here! I may not be in the next bedroom anymore, but I am still here as your loving sister and best friend. I love you and miss you dearly Lilly; never forget it.
When I was finished reading the letter I felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and left much more rejuvenated. There was a warmth running like electricity through my body as I held the letter to my bosom. I immediately wrote a reply, which I intended to send with all the other letters I had written before, updating her on everything that had occurred in her absence, the good, the bad and especially the most recent ugly. I knew that she would be shocked at all that she had either caused or missed.
That afternoon, my girlfriends stopped by to have tea and cake with me and, of course, present me with their gifts. It wasn't a party, but at least I knew that there were some people in the world who still cared about me. I informed them of the letter I had received from Rose, and they informed me on all the juicy gossip around town, excluding Cal so as not to disturb my good mood.
"Lilly, there is another gift I have been asked to deliver to you, but I was waiting until your mother wasn't anywhere close," said Clarisse, looking around to make sure Mother was nowhere in sight.
"Kyle," was her whispered reply, taking out of her handbag a small parcel attached to a letter. Part of me was thrilled that he hadn't forgotten or was still eager to buy me gifts, but the stubborn side of me was reluctant to take it. I opened the parcel hesitantly only to discover the very root of all my problems…my engagement ring. I gasped, shutting the box and turning back to Clarisse with a look of disbelief.
"Is this some sort of joke? Did you know about this?"
"Yes, but you must read the letter before you get angry."
"Honestly, does he expect me to suddenly forgive him, or is he trying to mock me? And why on earth would you allow him to give this to me?"
"Lilly, just read the letter…"
Sighing, I reluctantly opened the letter and read Kyle's writing. I wasn't sure I really wanted to know what he had to say, but then again, the mere idea that he still loved me and that, perhaps one day, we might be together was thrilling. He wrote about how regretful he was over what had happened and that he had been angry. Our flaws were the other's strength and our personalities were in perfect balance, and he hoped that I could forgive him for being so harsh. He relayed that his intention was not that I wear the ring, but to keep it as a reminder of our love, in hopes that one day, hopefully in the near future we could be together. Under normal circumstance, had it been anyone else, I wouldn't have given in so easily to such cliché words, but something about Kyle had an automatic power over my soul, and I wanted him to own me.
I put the ring on my finger once more and admired it one last time. I had a smile on and my heart felt like it was flying again, but moments later I came to my senses and my smile faded. Taking the ring off once more and placing it in its box, I put it aside and sat back in my chair, in a state of utter disappointment.
"It will never work; there is no point in pretending or hoping it will."
"I know dear, but it is better to remember the good times, and appreciate them rather than mope about how horrible things can get. And perhaps what is happening now isn't as horrible as it seems. Things will only get worse before they get better. Maybe Kyle isn't the man you are supposed to end up with; perhaps this needed to happen in order for you to find the right one," said Clarisse with her hands in mine.
"God has a plan for everyone, and everything happens for a reason. Just trust, and don't lose faith. Things will get better," said Hannah; she always was the most God fearing of the lot of us, and always had something spiritually uplifting to say.
"You aren't the first to point this out."
"That is because it's the truth," said Clarisse.
"I know, I know...but it's so hard. I don't think I can imagine myself with anyone else. Honestly, who else can I possibly be with?"
"I am sure there are plenty options. Don't go looking for love, and certainly don't avoid the idea of falling in love again, or you'll never find that special person."
"I suppose you're right...it just angers me to see Eleanor running around with Cal! I will never understand why he had to sabotage my relationship."
"Have you ever considered, perhaps, that he is jealous that he lost Rose, and here you are in your perfect relationship while he suffers? You know how selfish he is," suggested Clarisse.
"Clarisse! You shouldn't be encouraging her! Lilly, you need to stop allowing yourself to get worked up over him. He's an idiot and isn't worth your time. What you need to do is show him that you are better than he is, and can move on. He will eventually get tired of playing his game and come running back, then what you need to do is show up arm in arm with another man. That would show him!"
"Am I speaking to Hannah?" I asked, in shock; Hannah was the peacemaker and normally wouldn't encourage vengeful behaviour, but this was imressive.
"Yes indeed. I am tired of seeing you stressed over his shit! Oh dear, did I just say that out loud?" said Hannah, covering her mouth and blushing, looking around hoping my mother had not heard her. Clarisse and I nodded at her and began to laugh; we were finally seeing a more rebellious side of her, and it was quite refreshing. "I'm sorry, it just slipped out."
The rest of the afternoon proved to be quite entertaining, and for once I felt like myself again, even if only for a day, and I went to bed that night with a newfound optimism. My new goal would be to strive for someone better than Cal, and someone Mother didn't pick out of a crowd. It would be hard, but it was something I had to do, even if it took months.
Author's Note: It's been so long, I am so sorry! I have had writer's block, as well as school stress....or rather, lack of school stress (my university has been on strike for the past 3 months). However, chapter 17 is finally done, and I am surprisingly half way through chapter 18 so I am hoping you'll have it to read by the weekend. ENJOY!!